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9 Mar, 2013

Late Sitar Maestro Ravi Shankar Conferred India’s Inaugural Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony


Ministry of Culture, 07-March, 2013  – Indian President Mr Pranab Mukherjee here today conferred the first ever Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony, 2012 on Sitar Maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar at Rashtrapati Bhawan in recognition of his outstanding contribution to Cultural Harmony and Universal Values.

Since Pandit Ravi Shankar passed away on 11th December, 2012, the Award was presented to his wife, Smt. Sukanya Shankar.  The International Award carries a prize money of Rs. 1 Crore, shawl, plaque and a citation. The Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, Minister of Culture Mrs Chandresh Kumari Katoch, dignitaries and the family members of Pt. Ravi Shankar were present during the award ceremony.

The Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony has been instituted as a part of the commemoration of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore and an announcement to this effect was made by the then Finance Minister in his Budget Speech on 28th February, 2011.  The Jury constituted for the selection of Tagore Award for 2012 was Chaired by the Prime Minister of India. The award was announced on 7th May 2012 during the closing ceremony of the commemoration of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore.

PM’s address on the Occasion

“The conferment of the first-ever Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony would ordinarily have been an occasion of great joy. Today, however, our feelings are marked by a deep sadness on account of the fact that the first recipient of this award, Pandit Ravi Shankarji, is no more with us. It is therefore in someway a bittersweet occasion as we recall and celebrate the life of a great son of our Country.

Today, a bare three months after Pandit Ravi Shankarji’s passing away, there is not much more one can say that has not already been said in praise of one of the greatest musicians of our era. Pandit Ravi Shankarji was not just a great sitar maestro. He was also an outstanding cultural ambassador for India. He took the music of India to the world and brought a whole new world of music to our country. He personified ‘East meets West’ in musical terms and therefore I would go so far as to call him an ambassador of music itself.

When one goes over the many milestones in Pandit Ravi Shankarji’s life, it is striking to see his association with some of the most evocative aspects of Indian culture. Sometimes, it even appears as if his success was foretold. He was born in Banaras, one of the great cradles of Indian music. His early training took place under the watchful gaze of Ustad Allauddin Khan saheb, one of the doyens of Hindustani classical music. One of his earliest compositions was for the song, “Sare Jahan Se Acchha”, a song that unfailingly brings a smile on the lips of Indians all across the world. His mastery of the sitar enabled Pandit Ravi Shankarji to embark on the challenging task of composing orchestral music for All India Radio, using an arrangement of Indian musical instruments. Iconic music and iconic film-making came together when Pandit ji later composed music for a number of Satyajit Ray’s films.

Borne on the strings of Pandit Ravi Shankar’s sitar, classical Indian music travelled to all corners of the world. Ravi Shankarji’s ‘Festival of India’ and ‘Concert for Bangladesh’ albums enthralled music lovers all over the world. His association with The Beatles and his influence on their music is too well known for me to recount here. One of his greatest contemporaries and friends, Yehudi Menuhin, the violin virtuoso, while talking about his relationship with Pandit Ravi Shankar, had this to say about him and I quote, “As a teacher, I know of no better. His total commitment to his art goes far beyond pure music making. For Ravi, all human activity, eating, dancing, doing exercise, is imbued with a symbolic value beyond approach, and therefore it is all, in its own way, like some divine offering”. Unquote.

It is only fitting that the first ever Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony is being conferred on Pandit Ravi Shankar. The Award is intended to recognize great men and women who through their works in any field of art have enriched the greatness of Indian culture and promoted values of universal brotherhood. Throughout his life, Pandit Ravi Shankar ji was decorated with numerous awards around the world, including India’s highest civilian award, the ‘Bharat Ratna’, in 1999, but I am sure he would have greatly appreciated the significance of being the first to be recognized in the memory of another great Indian who was similarly a man of multiple talents and, not unlike Pandit Ravi Shankar, propounded a message of universal humanism. This award is a fitting tribute therefore not only to Pandit Ravi Shankar’s remarkable an extraordinary achievements, but also to the sacred memory of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore.

Ladies and Gentlemen, while I am deeply saddened that Pandit Ravi Shankar ji is no longer with us and that he could not receive the award in person earlier on account of his illness, it gives me some solace that Sukanya ji and their daughter are able to grace the occasion and be with us today. Pandit Ravi Shankar may be gone, but his legacy will live on – through his music and his compositions. The world is a better place for having seen Ravi ji make music. For that, we will always be in his debt. I salute his memory and join countless others in paying my homage to this great son of India.”